Amongst all the talk about cuts in the public sector, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that independent schools are caught up in the teachers` dispute over pensions. There are about 20,000 members of the ATL union in the private sector. Even some teachers at Eton, David Cameron`s old school, and whose pension may also be affected by the Government`s proposals, may take part in the strike.
Here is some quick guidance for smaller employers (and employees) in the education sector who may not be sure whether their staff are freely able to take part in the strike.
- Only those staff members officially called out by one the unions taking the action may take part in the strike with impunity (although pay may always be deducted from workers for time spent on strike).
- There must be a dispute with the employer in question.
- Both union members and non union members may be called out on strike. However, in this dispute, it is more likely that only union members are being called out.
- Whether or not the union is recognised is irrelevant, although normally it will be in order for there to be a dispute in the first place.
- Before calling upon employees to take part in industrial action, the union must first give 7 days` formal written notice of industrial action to each employer.
- These notices must spell out which employees are being called out to take part.
- If employees take part in industrial action without being called upon to do so by their union, they take part in unofficial action.
- Employees may be dismissed whilst taking part in unofficial action without any right to claim unfair dismissal. They may also be disciplined.
- The difference between official and unoffical action can sometimes be very little but the legal consequences incorrectly identifying one from the other can be huge.
- No employer should dismiss or discipline their staff for taking part in industrial action without taking proper legal advice first and with careful regard to its employment relations.
Please contact us if you have any query on the strike or how it may affect you or your business.